Council approves community engagement on Truth and Reconcilliation

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by Colin Smith

The Town of Morinville is moving ahead with efforts to engage the community on the issues of truth and reconciliation in relation to Indigenous Peoples.

Council has directed Administration to undertake the engagement process as outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Community Consultation Plan report presented at its July 13 meeting.

Engagement will be informed by nine of the 94 recommendations issued in 2015 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of its final report. These recommendations have been selected by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to guide this work.

The process of Indigenous engagement will take into account four sectors, with which the Town will work: the needs-based, including social and support services providers; grassroots activists; the rights-based, including Alexander First Nation and government relations; and institutional partnerships, including school boards, other levels of government and the RCMP.

“Very grateful that this is coming forward and some work is being done and that it will be done in the right way,” said Councillor Sarah Hall in moving that the Town go ahead with the engagement process. “I look forward to the process and the excellent results we are going to get.

Council also approved the allocation of up to $60,000 from the Contracted Services budget to pay for consulting services to facilitate the process.

This was based on Morinville Administration not having the requisite experience with these matters, and that a consultant or consultants with expertise in working with indigenous people would be needed.

The motion to approve the original recommendation for a $60,000 allocation was passed unanimously as amended by Councillor Stephen Dafoe, adding the words “up to.”

“There’s no better way we could be spending that money right now on any contracted services,” said mover Deputy Mayor Nicole Boutestein. “This means we are one step closer to having those conversations we need.”

On June 8, Council called on Administration to bring forward a report to initiate a comprehensive community consultation in collaboration with Alexander First Nation.

The consultation is intended to align with calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report outlining the findings of an investigation into Canada’s former residential schools, which Indigenous children were compelled to attend and where many died.

The formation of an Alexander First Nation/Town of Morinville Task Force has also been approved by Council. Intended to further the relationship between the Town and the First Nation, the move follows a June 14 meeting between members of Council and Alexander First Nation Chief George Arcand Jr. and Council.

Councillors Sarah Hall and Scott Richardson were chosen to be Morinville’s representatives on the task force.

Engagement will also take place with the Métis people, an issue raised in a letter received by Council from Bruce Gladue, President of Métis Local 1904, St. Albert-Sturgeon County.

To inform Morinville’s approach to engaging the community, Administration has conducted research on what other Alberta jurisdictions are doing. Frameworks to support collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and to advance reconciliation efforts have been put in place by the City of Edmonton, City of Lethbridge, and Town of Devon.

According to the report, the next steps undertaken by Administration will be continuing outreach to create an appropriate engagement plan and hiring an experienced consultant to help guide and legitimize engagement and reconciliation efforts.

Finalizing the engagement framework will require clarifying its intent and purpose, as well as its overall scale and scope. Working out an education approach, identifying stakeholders and setting timelines will also be necessary in developing the plan to implement the calls to action.

“This work is critical and something that needs to move forward,” said Mayor Barry Turner. “This is definitely not going to be a sprint but a marathon.”

Nine Calls To Action The Focus

The nine of 94 Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations that the engagement process will specifically be taking into account are the following:

#40 We call on all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal people, to create adequately funded and accessible Aboriginal-specific victim programs and services with appropriate evaluation mechanisms.

#43 We call upon federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

#47 We call upon federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts

#57 We call upon federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism.

#64 We call upon all levels of government that provide public funds to denominational schools to require such schools to provide an education on comparative religious studies, which must include a segment on Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders.

#75 We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.

#77 We call upon provincial, territorial, municipal and community archives to work collaboratively with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to identify and collect copies of all records relevant to the history and legacy of the residential school system, and to provide these to the NCTR.

#87 We call upon all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, sports halls of fame, and other relevant organizations, to provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history.

#88 We call upon all levels of government to take action to ensure long-term Aboriginal athlete development and growth, and continued support for the North American Indigenous Games, including funding to host the games and for provincial and territorial team preparation and travel.

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